Amid the natural beauty of Cartagena’s Caribbean coast there exists an alarming level of wealth disparity in Colombia’s most notable tourist destination – with a large percent of the population living in poverty.
Despite the city’s thriving hospitality and tourism industry, the local residents are unable to tap into this growing industry because they lack the necessary skills needed to apply for these employment opportunities. Therefore, most are forced to live a subsistent life as farmers or fishermen and struggle to secure a stable income because of unstable market conditions and lack of education – most survive on less than $2 a day.
The city’s hospitality industry is growing at an impressive rate and having reliable and skilled staff is a critical requirement for the success of this industry.
The Acceso Training Center enterprise was created to support a range of employability programs, including hospitality, aimed at improving the livelihoods for thousands of disadvantaged youth in Cartagena, Colombia. CGEP prepares and places marginalized youth in quality hospitality jobs by providing them with the specific competencies and skills sets in housekeeping and hotel guest services, and as kitchen aids, baristas, food and beverages servers, administrative and accounting assistants.
The Training Center’s programs address the critical labor needs of the growing hospitality industry and have been custom tailored to the specific requirements of the industry. CGEP has engaged with local hotels, academic institutions, and government organizations to develop highly relevant training content and methodologies. These partnerships have been tremendously valuable, as they perform periodic reviews and provide updates to the Center’s curricula, assess its strategy, provide hands-on training opportunities and internships, and support job placement efforts. Armed with this very helpful information, the team can quickly respond to changes in the hospitality industry by adjusting the variety of training provided, fine-tune the numbers and qualifications of students enrolled, and update the content of course curricula.
The value gained from collaboration has motivated industry leaders to hire and retain the Center’s graduates, as well as become long-term partners and friends.
The Acceso Training Center has already become cash flow positive, which will allow it to be a sustainable enterprise serving the community for an indefinite number of years to come. Between 2013 and 2015, more than 3,000 students have been enrolled; 1,480 of whom were placed in work practicums pre-graduation; and more than 1,200 have graduated. This training center model is now being replicated in Pereira, the coffee growing region of Colombia. Additionally, approximately 78 percent of CGEP training center students have been women, of whom 48% are mothers. All women receive scholarships to fund the cost of their education.